New campaign to decriminalise abortion in Queensland

Issue 

Pro Choice QLD released this statement on May 5.

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Pro Choice QLD is today launching the campaign against laws from 1899 criminalising abortion in this state.

The campaign, supported by a coalition of organisations and individuals from across the state including health, community and women's groups, calls for the decriminalisation of abortion in Queensland. It follows independent MP for Cairns Rob Pyne signalling his intention to introduce a Private Member's Bill to Queensland parliament that would decriminalise abortion and bring our law into line with community opinion and clinical practice.

Cairns Doctors medical director Dr Heather McNamee said the abortion laws were from a period when Queensland's women had virtually no rights. “It's from a really ridiculously historical time, so it's completely out of date and it's out of kilter with modern medical practice,'' she said

Queensland has some of the most restrictive laws in the country in relation to abortion, which remains a crime unless it is performed to prevent serious threat to the life or health of a woman.

It is estimated that up to 14,000 women terminate a pregnancy every year in Queensland, and that around the country more than one in four women will have an abortion at some point during their lifetime. Reliable opinion polling consistently shows that about 80% of Australians support women's right to choose abortion.

The threat of criminality is not as distant as some would like to believe — in April 2009 a young woman in Cairns and her partner were charged over an abortion. The problematic nature of the law was also highlighted last month in the case of Q, a 12-year-old forced to seek Supreme Court permission to terminate her pregnancy.

“The result in Queensland is increased anxiety and reluctance on the part of doctors to be involved in performing abortions, even though we know that around half of all pregnancies in Australia are unplanned,” said Professor Heather Douglas.

“The decisions a woman may make about terminating a pregnancy, for whatever reason, should be resolved in the surgery, not the court room,” said Dr Carole Ford. “I encourage all members of the community who share our concern to visit and take action today to help create legislative reform. We need everyone's voices heard on this issue.”

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